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Sudarshan Kriya - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -An ERP Study on the Influence of Long Term Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and Meditation Practice

Sudarshan Kriya - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -An ERP Study on the Influence of Long Term Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and Meditation Practice

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Published by: onisal on May 22, 2009
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Meditation and emotional processing in the brain:
An ERP study on the influence of long term SudarshanKriya yoga and meditation practice
Reshmi Marhe (274171)
 Master Thesis, Institute for Psychology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam
August 2007, supervisor: Liselotte Gootjes
The present study examined differences in the event-related brain potentials (ERPs) of 24 longterm Sudarshan Kriya meditators and 24 control subjects without prior experience in meditation,in their response to an emotional evocative task. The International Affective Picture System(IAPS) was used to examine emotional processing in the brain. Subjects also completed thePositive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). In the 200-400 ms time window, groupdifferences were found at central and parietooccipital brain regions, independent of ERP responseto stimulus valence. The meditators showed higher overall ERP amplitude in these regionscompared to the controls. In the 400-600 ms time window meditators showed greater ERPresponse to neutral pictures at prefrontal brain regions, compared to controls. A negativity biaswas found in both groups and both time windows. Correlations between subjects’ PANAS scoresand ERP amplitudes were found.
The meditation group showed correlations at left, middleand right brain areas, while the control group showed correlations at left and middle brainareas, but not right brain areas. The present findings indicate an effect of meditation on brain responses, but not on emotional processing.
Meditation and yoga originate from Eastern culture and have been passed on to theWest, where an increasing number of people practice variants of these techniques. Some people use meditation and/or yoga as a method for reducing stress, anxiety or againstsymptoms of depression (Pilkington, Kirkwood, Rampes & Richardson, 2005; Brown &Gerbarg, 2005). In general, meditation can be divided into two types: mindfulness andconcentrative. Mindfulness based meditation is allowing all your thoughts, feelings andsensations to arise while staying aware of yourself and your location (Cahn & Polich,2006). Recent research has found that mindfulness meditation is associated with anincrease in psychological well-being and a decrease in stress and mood disturbance(Brown & Ryan, 2003). An example of mindfulness based meditation is Zen meditation.Concentrative meditation forms include focusing on a specific mental or sensory activity,such as a repeating sound, a mental imagery or the breath. Yogic meditation is a form of concentrative meditation (Cahn & Polich, 2006). There are also techniques that include both forms of meditation. One of these techniques is Transcendental Meditation (TM),where practitioners focus on a repeated mantra and also try to get into a state of thought-free awareness (Cahn & Polich, 2006). Another technique that includes both mindfulnessand concentrative aspects is Sudarshan Kriya (SK) yoga. In SK, yogic breathing, yoga postures and meditation are combined. SK consists of three preparatory stages wheredifferent types of inhaling and exhaling and chanting are practiced. After these breathingstages the SK cyclical breathing technique starts and is followed by meditation and rest(Brown & Gerbarg, 2005). SK meditation, the technique studied in the present research,is comparable with TM, where practitioners are guided into a state of thought-freeawareness.An increasing number of research has been done to study the beneficial effects of meditation techniques. Evidence for an influence of different meditation types on brainactivity comes from electroencephalographic (EEG) studies. Overall, these studies reportincreased alpha and theta band power in long term meditators, compared to controlsubjects who did not have regular practice in meditation (reviewed in Cahn & Polich,
32006). Increased theta band power is associated with orientation, attention, memory andaffective processing mechanisms, while increased alpha power is associated withcalmness, relaxation and positive affect (Aftanas & Golocheikine, 2001; Cahn & Polich,2006). An EEG frequency study comparing Short Term Sahaja Yoga Meditators (STM)to Long Term Sahaja Yoga Meditators (LTM) found that increased alpha and theta power and theta coherence are also important in experiencing emotionally positive feelings of  bliss and internalized attention. A high-resolution EEG was recorded during an eyesclosed condition and a meditation condition and subjects also completed a shortquestionnaire on ‘blissful’ experience and reported how many thoughts appeared duringmeditation. On the questionnaire, the LTM reported a more intense blissful experienceand a lower thought appearance rate than the STM. EEG recordings showed that theLTM had increased theta (3.77-5.65 Hz) and alpha-1 power (5.65-7.54 Hz) in frontalregions and alpha-2 power (7.54-9.42 Hz) in anterior temporal and frontal regions, incomparison with STM, were theta ranged from 4.02-6.02 Hz, alpha-1 from 6.02-8.03 Hz,and alpha-2 from 8.03-10.04 Hz. Furthermore, STM showed alpha-2 desynchronizationin parietotemporal, parietal and occipital regions and LTM showed increased thetasynchronization in prefrontal and posterior association cortex. Correlation analysis between the EEG frequency results and the results on the questionnaire yielded a positivecorrelation between intensity of blissful experience and theta power in anterior frontaland frontal midline sites, and a negative correlation between thought appearance andtheta power in anterior frontal, frontal midline, central frontal, and right central regions.These results indicate that positive experiences and concentration during meditatingincrease with long term regular practice (Aftanas & Golocheikine, 2001).A reanalysis of this study was done to examine the complexity of neuronalcomputations in the brain, called dimensional complexity. Decrease of dimensionalcomplexity over the midline anterior-frontal and centro-frontal regions was found duringmeditation, indicating that meditative experience elicits less complex EEG dynamics(Aftanas & Golocheikine, 2002). The authors discussed that these findings may suggestthat meditators shut off information processing in frontal midline theta to maintain thefocus on internalized attention and inhibiting useless information.

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